U.S. Girls – Heavy Light (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 37:29 minutes | 424 MB | Genre: Alternative, Indie
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front cover | © 4AD
The highly anticipated seventh album by U.S. Girls, the protean musical enterprise of multi-disciplinary artist Meg Remy, will be released on 6 March entitled Heavy Light. While Remy has been widely acclaimed for a panoply of closely observed character studies, on Heavy Light she turns inward, recounting personal narratives to create a deeply introspective about-face. The songs are an inquest into the melancholy flavour of hindsight, both personal and cultural. Remy makes this notion formally explicit with the inclusion of three re-worked, previously released songs: ‘Statehouse (It’s A Man’s World)’, ‘Red Ford Radio’, and ‘Overtime’, the latter of which is released today as Heavy Light’s lead single. Its companion video, which stars Andrea Nann of the Dreamwalker Dance Company, was created by Remy.
Heavy Light follows 2018’s internationally critically-acclaimed breakout album In A Poem Unlimited. Recently named one of the best albums of the decade by Pitchfork, it was lauded across the pond by the likes of The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Crack and Q magazine for being Remy’s most accessible record in her then decade-long career.
Heavy Light is produced by Remy and was recorded live with 20 session musicians – including E Street Band saxophonist Jake Clemons – in Montreal’s acclaimed Hotel 2 Tango studio. Remy worked with co-writers Basia Bulat and Rich Morel to develop the core of Heavy Light, a set of songs conceived as a balance between orchestral percussion (as richly arranged by percussionist Ed Squires) and the human voice (conducted by Kritty Uranowski). The resulting album finds Remy casting herself as lead voice among a harmonious multitude, the singers of which lend not only their voices, but also share reflections on childhood experiences that are collaged into moving spoken word interludes throughout the album. The album is mixed by long-time collaborators Maximilian ‘Twig’ Turnbull, Steve Chahley and Tony Price.
U.S. Girls isn’t as much a band as an ever-mutating organism. Begun by experimental songwriter Meg Remy in the late 2000s as a noisy solo act backed by reel-to-reel tapes, the project grew into a monolith of larger-than-life pop. 2018’s In a Poem Unlimited was one of Remy’s finest moments, with her polymathic songwriting bending disco-funk, glam rock, and ambient composition into new forms. Heavy Light expands on the colorful complexities of In a Poem Unlimited, with Remy dipping her toes in different styles on almost every song but retaining the experimental intensity that has always been at the core of U.S. Girls. Album opener “Four American Dollars” juxtaposes a light, summery soul instrumental with lyrics about destitution, poverty, and the inevitability of death. It’s one of several moments on the album where Remy is joined by a host of powerful backing vocalists, a technique that’s been flirted with on previous albums but is utilized to its fullest on these songs. This shows up in the form of girl group melodrama on eerie, beautiful songs like “IOU” and “Denise, Don’t Wait” and theatrical synth-heavy glam rock on “The Quiver to the Bomb.” The brief spoken interludes that showed up a few times on In a Poem Unlimited are swapped out here with several similar pieces, this time various voices stacked on top of each other answering survey questions about childhood memories. These interludes underscore themes of nostalgia and painfully looking back that become central to Heavy Light. “Woodstock ’99” mulls over a stream of melancholic younger memories over a syrupy lite rock instrumental borrowed from late-’60s AM radio hit “MacArthur Park.” Looking back also takes the form of several songs revisited from the U.S. Girls back catalog being reworked to various degrees of reinvention. Album standout “Overtime” takes on new life with the dramatic emphasis of newly added backing vocals, and album closer “Red Ford Radio,” originally a dark smear of distorted vocals and looped drums on 2010’s Go Grey, becomes a shockingly clear statement of fear and intensity. Remy takes a personal inventory throughout Heavy Light, sometimes contemplating the present but oftentimes remembering or returning to different threads from the past. It’s another huge step forward for the uncontainable U.S. Girls organism, one that skillfully combines the immediacy of personal memories with Remy’s uncanny ability to inject her singular creative voice into every sound she touches. ~ Fred Thomas
1. 4 American Dollars (5:42)
2. Overtime (2:55)
3. IOU (4:43)
4. Advice to Teenage Self (0:51)
5. State House (It’s a Man’s World) (1:44)
6. Born to Lose (3:07)
7. And Yet It Moves / Y Se Mueve (3:37)
8. The Most Hurtful Thing (1:04)
9. Denise, Don’t Wait (4:21)
10. Woodstock ’99 (2:37)
11. The Color of Your Childhood Bedroom (0:27)
12. The Quiver to the Bomb (4:24)
13. Red Ford Radio (2:06)